I'm spending the week on a "working vacation" in the Poconos, which involves a few pecks at the keyboard and then the ritualistic inhalation of enough junk food to induce diabetes. It's quite lovely up here, really. Rather than my usual backdrop of the apartment building across the way and the undershirted old man who continually adjusts his blinds, I'm currently staring out at a tranquil lake. I'm just like Thoreau, except with more cursing and crying.

So I can't get myself too worked up about Organize, a new mag whose primary purpose is to tell readers where to put their shoes. Here's an idea: in the closet. Or, alternately: under the bed.

People actually seem to be able to make a living dispensing this sort of innovative organizational advice, judging by the experts quoted in the September/October issue of Organize. Hell, other people can make a living interviewing those people, as witnessed by the cagey, intense Q&A with an "office organization expert." Sample question: "If the hall closet is clean, how does that make a difference?" Answer: In more ways that you can begin to imagine, brother.

Organize operates under the assumption that its readers are constitutionally incapable of figuring out where to put their crap. I don't have much love in my heart for Johnny and Janey Middlebrow, but they can't possibly be so dense as to need a magazine to help them stem the onrushing tide of poorly organized laundry, can they? In "Problem? Solved," Organize devotes around 350 words to just such an apocalyptic precursor: "Each child should have their own easily accessible basket, bag, or laundry hamper in their room or closet. If your children share a room, make sure each child's hamper is clearly marked. Help them get into the habit of putting their dirty clothes in the right place." Or you could just point them in the general direction of the washer and dryer. I also question whether Organize conveys much in the way of realistic advice. A glimpse at the toy room at my sister's house suggests that she could use, say, a second toy chest. What she doesn't need, unless she wants to turn my niece or nephew into The Anal-Retentive Carpenter, are bright area rugs that delineate each child's play space, an organizational framework that stores similar toys together, and storage bins affixed with pictures of their contents.

Even if the advice Organize passes along proves to be helpful and/or actionable, it sure isn't a whole lot of fun. Think back, if you will, to the moment you arrived home from elementary school. You dropped your coat in a heap at the door, kicked off your shoes into the corner, and chucked your "Space: 1999" lunchbox at your younger sister. The folks behind Organize would've reported your folks to the child-welfare authorities, as evidenced by their Onion-esque "Making the Grade" back-to-school tips. For homework management, the mag proposes the creation of a "check-in chart" and the use of TV timers. For activity coordination, the mag suggests compiling schedules in an information binder and holding weekly family meetings. As pointless and persnickety as most of these tips are, I sorta like the family-meeting concept. In my house growing up, these would've been a gas -- literally, owing to my dad's fondness for the pull-my-finger gag.

I'll say this, though. Two issues in, Organize looks as sharp and stylish as any design or shelter title currently on newsstands. From a design perspective, the mag revels in the unconventional, whether the trio of neatly angular illustrations that accompany "Confessions of a Closet Keeper" or the "Quick Fix" assortment of pet accessories. The latter's black backdrop and around-the-edges placement of products suggests, to my addled mind at least, a solar system o' stuff. The photo choices are uniformly interesting, eschewing the usual beaming-mom-embraces-giggling-daughter shots for ones of families in action, like a kid roller-blading past a militarily organized garage. My only complaint on this front, and it's a small one, is that the self-explanatory "Before & After Gallery" shots aren't large enough to convey the full effect of the changes that were made.

Alas, even the sleekest, best-thought-out design and organizational (yup) scheme in the world wouldn't rescue Organize. A stupid idea executed artfully is still, at its core, a stupid idea. If Organize finds an audience beyond a subset of control-freak homemakers, I'll be astonished.

Published by: Fourth Publishing
Frequency: Bimonthly
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